I am writing to confirm my phone discussions with you about the following matter on 29/6/15 and to seek an urgent meeting with the Minister for Energy and Resources to defuse the current situation in Mirboo North.
Michael (South Gippsland Sentinel Times), thank you for your phone call on June 29 where you informed me of ‘a police report that referred to a male who had been taken in for questioning (27th June), pertaining to an alleged assault on a worker involved in the Seismic Survey currently being conducted in the Mirboo North area. The report also stated that (28th June), public property had been damaged associated with the seismic survey. You asked if I was aware of these incidents and asked me to comment.
Previously, at the request of Brett Millsom, Senior Community Engagement Officer, Earth Resources, three members of Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North met at very short notice with Anthony Hurst, Executive Director, Earth Resources and Development, Paul McDonald, Director, Geological Survey and Alex Wilson, Community Engagement Officer at 2pm-4pm on 13th May. At this meeting we were advised of the Seismic Survey and asked for our advice on how best to inform the community.
We made several suggestions and highlighted how sensitive this matter would be in raising community concerns. As such, we stressed that Earth Resources would need to do extensive publicity and make it obvious that this was a government department and not a mining company doing testing and to be open and transparent about why this information was being collected and how it would be used.
I informed the Community Engagement Officer, (Alex), that their first and subsequent attempts at advising the community, was lacking. Our group has continued to field community inquiries, pass these concerns onto Earth Resources and suggest better ways that they could act as intermediaries between the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources and the Mirboo North community to allay fears.
We strongly believe that it is the department’s lack of understanding and sensitivity to people’s concerns about the prospect of mining in this district, the appearance of yellow pingers and blue markers, (seismic testing equipment), along the shopping strip and roadsides near people’s homes at the same time as the department granting Mantle Mining a coal exploration licence, has created an escalation of concern leading to this type of conflict.
We have made suggestions to the department, in particular relating to their advertising plan, so that our community is adequately informed about the seismic testing. Unfortunately these suggestions have largely gone unheeded causing alarm within the community.
Immediately after talking to the Sentinel-Times I phoned Brett to discuss with him the above matters.
Having been made aware of this situation, our group is very concerned that this matter be contained ASAP.
To confirm and clarify the position of our group:
1. We in no way condone or encourage any criminal activity and stand only for peaceful and respectful protest.
2. Our role within the community is to provide credible information on coal and onshore gas activities.
3. We facilitate community input into the political process in terms of government decision making on coal and onshore gas issues.
4. We provide a platform where the community can discuss their fears and uncertainties regarding the potential development of these industries in our district.
We have tried to do the above to the best of our abilities and to avoid the sort of confrontation whereby people take matters into their own hands.
We are very concerned that someone in our community has been so frustrated and upset that they have behaved in this manner. We believe that if the department had gone about this as advised, this could have been avoided – as could the department’s use of security and police patrols due to these incidents.
As such, we would like to do everything in our power to defuse the situation and so call on the Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, for an urgent meeting with us.
Marg Thomas, For Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North.